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Dr Whittington

The Whittington family lived at Woodleigh House

The memorial to the Whittington family stands (with its toppled cross placed on the plot) in the "NS1" section of St Mary's Churchyard in Prestwich. Although getting its snappy mnemonic from being a "New Section", the NS1-3 sections were added in 1886. The Asylum had opened in 1850 and provided a steady demand for pauper burials at St Mary's, so much so that the Church approached the Asylum asking for them to purchase additional land for the expansion of the burial ground.

Whittington family plot, St Mary's.

Although purchased by the Asylum, the New Sections were used for the burials of some of the most wealthy merchants of the local area. In addition this period coincided with the prosperity of the Greek community of Higher Broughton and Prestwich. A Greek Church was built on Bury New Rd, Higher Broughton, however it did not have consecrated ground for burials, and agreement was made for the use of St Mary's. The volunteers still call the area the "Greek Sections" today.

The Church of the Annunciation, on Bury New Road, Higher Broughton

NS1 actually contains the memorial inscriptions to 45 people buried between 1749 and 1877, before the land had been bought for burial use.

The oldest such re-burial is that of Ralph and Mary Bradshaw of Outwood, who buried three sons in 1749 & 1764.

18th century Bradshaw grave in a 19th century section.

This anomaly is thought to be a result of the extension of the Eastern end of the church in 1889 which will have resulted in the relocation of burials. Although many stones from this time have been relocated on the pathways around the church, these old stones in NS1 are thought to mark re-interrals that either still had local families or that had to be moved to make way for the foundations

Map of St Mary's

Grace Mather

The first burial in NS1 dated to after the purchase of the additional land was in 1893, with the sad burial of Grace Emma "Gem" Mather after a horse riding accident at Fontainebleau. She was a daughter of Sir William Mather of Mather & Platts Engineering, who lived at Woodhill in Prestwich.

Further along from the impressive Mather family plots which memorialise ten members of the family, we find the damaged cross of the Whittington Family.

Whittington family plot, St Mary's.

At first glance at the records of the burials of Emily (aged 75, of Hale) in 1927, and Henry (aged 80, of Altrincham) in 1922, there seems little local connection. However the other two burials on the headstone are those of Joseph Henry their son (aged 32) interred at Heysham, and Emily's husband Thomas Thompson (aged 65). They both died in 1909, with Thomas listing his abode as 4, Brunswick Terrace. The letters on Thomas's memorial of 1909, M.R.C.S. stands for Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and L.R.C.P. - Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians.

Brunswick Terrace was a block of four Regency Houses, dating from the period from 1811 to 1820 when George, Prince of Wales, governed the country as 'Regent' during the madness of his father George III. The terrace stood on Bury New Rd where what is now Marks & Spencer's Car Park in Prestwich.

Brunswick Terrace

Checking the 1841 census and 1850's Trade directories, the occupants of Brunswick terrace had included Rev. Wm. Wilbraham Johnson, Mr. Miles Hawthornthwaite, Mr. Wm. Kendal, and Mrs. Mary Johnson. Though interesting, this turns out to be too early for the Whittington family to be present, with Thomas aged 65, his birth would have been about 1844. In fact what I'm doing is working in the wrong direction. Anyone who's looked at their family history knows that you should work back from known information, so using the ages and dates of burial what do we find?

Searching for Whittington family events at Prestwich, we find that Thomas had married Emily Hancock in 1870.

Their marriage in 1870 records that Thomas's father Henry, was a Jeweller and he witnessed the families happy day at St Mary's.

From the census (1851) we find that Thomas Thompson Whittington was born at Manchester the son of Henry Whittington, silversmith and jeweller and Henriette his wife. They were living at 5, Alpha Terrace on Lower Broughton Rd with six siblings and two servants.

Alpha Terrace (1844).

Back then, the house would have had a view over the Irwell to Broughton Suspension Bridge, and the nurseries along Ford Lane.

Alpha Terrace (today)

The family were clearly doing well. Henry, Thomas's father had been born in Sheffield about 1810, and as many did in that city grew up with a trade in metal. Henry had been living in Bawtry, Yorkshire in 1840 and owned land called "The Holmes". He and Henrietta moved to Manchester around 1841, bringing four children with them, and went on to have four more in Manchester and Salford.

Ten years later the family were recorded as living on Camp Street, around the corner from their last house, and Harriette had given birth to one further daughter. Henry was now listed as a silversmith and jeweller.

Their eldest son Joseph (b:1835) followed his father's trade and became a Goldsmith too.

Second son John (b:1836) was an architect, comisisoned to design the Broughton Liberal Club House (later the Hungarian Scoial Club) and became agent to the Freeholder Company Limited, a Manchester property development firm which purchased Bramhall Hall & grounds in 1877 for £200,000 (£29.8m today !). The Bramhall estate totalled 1,918 acres which the company intended to build suburban villas upon. For a time, John Whittington lived in the Hall seemingly in the role of caretaker (1881 Census) then in 1882 the Hall and 50 acres of grounds were purchased by Thomas Nevill, a local industrialist whose wealth came from calico printing.

Broughton Liberal Club/Hungarian Social, Grt Clowes Street (1978)

The third son, Henry Jr. (b:1842) also went on to become a Jeweller and by 1881 was living in Lodgings on Oxford Street in Manchester.

Their fourth son was named Thomas Thompson (b:1843) and after being listed as an apprentice surgeon in the census of 1861, he became the Doctor for Prestwich in 1865. He married a Prestwich woman called Emily Hancock (b:1850),the daughter of Eliza, in 1870, and in the census of the following year Emily & Thomas were living at a residence called Woodleigh House, on Bury New Rd in Prestwich.

Site of Woodleigh House (1844).

Woodleigh House stood next to the National School, where the Co-Op undertakers are today. Thomas had also qualified as a Physician (L.R.C.P.) by 1871.

Thomas Whittaker who lived just a stones throw from the Foresters Arms Pub was the Doctor for the Foresters Society and also performed the same role for the Oddfellows Society (a society which had been considered illegal until 1850). It should be noted that Prestwich has no Oddfellows Pub, but plenty of odd fellows in pubs ;-)

The Ancient Order of The Foresters, or the Forrester Friendly Society, was established in 1834 after a split form the Royal Society of Foresters, with the aim of giving help to its members “as they walked through the forests of life”. ASOF was one of numerous "Friendship" Societies which gained popularity with the working classes during the Victorian era, and probably gives us a source for the name of another local pub.

Members of these societies paid a few pence a week to secure assistance in the event that their breadwinner fell ill, could not work and the family wage would stop/reduce.

A ceremonial sash showing the heraldic arms of the Foresters.

[The Oddfellows branch of Manchester split from the original Oddfellows, first mentioned in the 18th century, and formed the basis of today's Oddfellows Society.]

The Forrester Arms Pub in Prestwich was originally built about 1865, then demolished and rebuilt in 1962, during which a stream was discovered running underneath the site. Though the pub sign now depicts wood cutters at work, the original sign would probably have been the heraldic arms of the society.

The original Forresters Arms

At this time the land between Woodleigh House and the steps at Green Hill was yet to be built upon, and opposite was the Jewish Burial Ground. Later that year Thomas and Emily baptised their first son, Horatio Thomas Whittington at St Mary's and Thomas gave his occupation as Physician and Surgeon. They went on to baptise four more children at St Marys between 1873 and 1879, one of whom was Joseph Henry (b:1876) who is buried at Heysham, but memorialised on the family plot in Prestwich.

A newspaper article of 1871 records that Dr Whittingham diagnosed Mary Siddal, wife of a Prestwich chimney sweep, with a deadly case of Hydrophobia, fear of water, after being bitten by a cat. The Inquest held at The Red Lion returned a verdict that the lady had died from hydrophobia as a result of the bite from a rabid cat.

Hydrophobia (1872)

It may sound a rare event to us today, but there had been a similar death in Prestwich in 1845, when a boy Joseph Marsh, aged 7 years, was bitten by a dog at Polefield and went on to die of hydrophobia.

Hydrophobia (1845)

Woodleigh House (1891)

By 1891 Thomas was listed as a registered G.P. living at Woodleigh House, and the map from the time shows that the property had undergone substantial improvements since the map of 1844.

In 1897 Thomas was called to attend to body of a 7 year old boy called Harry Heaps in Prestwich Clough. Harry, son of Thomas Heaps of 17 Church Lane, had been found with a handkerchief in his mouth, but Dr Whittington did not find any signs of the use of force, or a struggle when he performed the post-mortem examination. The inquest held at The Church Inn returned an open verdict. Harry is buried at St Mary's, location unknown.

Mysterious death of Harry Heaps (1892)

In 1901 Thomas and Emily were still living at Woodleigh, and in January 1909, Joseph the son of Thomas & Emily, and an electrical engineer, was buried at Heysham, and memorialised on the family plot at St Mary's, then in September that same year Thomas died, aged 66 after being Prestwich's Doctor for 44 years.

Woodleigh (1915)

By 1915 the rear section of Woodleigh had been demolished and two houses had been built on Rectpry Lane (numbers 1 & 2 School View still stand today). The House stood in to the 1950's but was demolished and the two buildings of the funeral parlour were built on what was the front garden of Woodleigh House in the 1960's.

Woodleigh, encroached by housing (1927)

The site of Woodleigh (1963)